US president Donald Trump has invited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 other Asean leaders to a summit to be held in Las Vegas in March.
“The invitation was first conveyed during the Asean-US meeting at the Asean Summit and related summits in Bangkok last November. The US then reiterated its invitation through a letter dated January 9, 2020,” the Malacanang Presidential Palace said.
The Palace also released a copy of Trump’s letter to the Asean leaders dated November 1, given during last year’s Asean summit in Bangkok.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to offer an invitation to the leaders of Asean to join me in the US for a special summit meeting at a time of mutual convenience in the first quarter of 2020,” the letter read.
Trump added: “This will provide an excellent opportunity for us to broaden and deepen our cooperation on matters of great importance to the nearly one billion people in the United States and Asean nations that we have the privilege to represent. The American people and I hope to see you in the United States soon.”
The Palace said: “The meeting between Duterte and Trump is expected to reaffirm the long-standing alliance between the Philippines and the US.”
This was the second time that Trump invited Duterte to visit the US. In April 2017, Trump invited the president to visit the US, including Washington.
Last month, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte would formally decline the invitation, following the US passage of its 2020 budget that includes a provision banning Filipino officials involved in De Lima’s detention.
De Lima has named the president and several other government officials as responsible for her detention on illegal drug charges, which were based on testimonies of convicted drug lords.
In response to the US threat, Duterte banned from entering the Philippines the three US senators who wrote the provision.
He also moved to impose a visa requirement on US citizens should the US prevent any Filipino official connected with De Lima’s detention from stepping on US soil.
The Palace has repeatedly said the president is not poised to visit the US anytime soon, citing Duterte’s distaste for long-haul flights and colder weather.
Early into his administration, Duterte was criticised by the US government over the killings in his war on drugs. The US had urged him to ensure that law enforcement efforts in the crackdown on illegal drugs comply with human rights obligations.
Months later, Duterte told then US President Barack Obama to “go to hell”and called him “son of a bitch” for being critical of the drug war. After Obama stepped down in January 2017, Duterte publicly stated that he liked Trump more.
Trump’s friendly relationship with Duterte drew flak from some US senators and human rights groups.
In July 2017, Duterte declared that he had no plans to go to the US after an American congressman said he should not be welcomed to the White House due to his lack of regard for human rights in his brutal antinarcotics campaign.
A Washington Post report said Trump congratulated Duterte for an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” in an April 2017 phone call.
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK